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Showing posts from April, 2015

Class Laundry: Attempting Embroidery

At my daughter's school, families take turns doing the class laundry. Several times a year, we take home a bag of towels and smocks, and Miss P takes care of the load while I supervise. The bag itself usually needs a cleaning too. The teachers hang a tag on the bag to remind parents to bring the bag of clean laundry back on Monday, but after a while, the paper tag gets torn and worn out. I'm sure it's been accidentally washed a few times with the bag.

The tag was on its last legs, so I tried my hand at embroidery over the weekend, copying the paper tag message on cotton. There's a fabric backing as well, to keep the knots in place (hopefully).

It's not my prettiest work, but it does the trick, and now it's attached to the bag, so the laundry bag can get tossed in the wash, tag and all, and hopefully it will last a little longer than the old paper tag.

These are the times I wish for a fancy embroidery machine!

English Paper Piecing for Relaxation

A friend recently posted how she embarked on 100 days of Zentangle, which is often used as a stress-reduction or meditative exercise. In high school, my circle of friends often carried around a black pen or Sharpie, producing similar doodles during study hall. We didn't have a name for it, but it seems that pattern doodling is taking off.

As an adult, I haven't been able to get into Zentangle, mainly because I more other artistic or crafting activities more. Last summer, a good friend of my sister-in-law enthusiastically tried to turn me into a knitter. At the time, I thought it was a perfect way to have a portable, repetitive activity for travel, watching TV, or at the playground, but I just couldn't get into it. I found knitting stressful, rather than relaxing. Sometimes I bring a big tote of sewing projects, cutting patterns and basting fabric on hotel room floors, but that's really inconvenient and not so good for playdates and crashing on the couch.

I occasionall…

A Recipe for Delicious Meatballs

My daughter is pretty adverse to meat, but when I offer spaghetti for dinner, she'll usually request meatballs. Rather than serve frozen, pre-cooked meatballs, I prefer to make them from scratch. It's pretty easy and you can make a big batch to freeze for later. This way, you pick the meats you like and can adjust the meat-to-bread ratio to taste.

First, gather your ingredients. I try to keep a few containers of chopped veggies in the fridge for moments like this, as a time-saver. If you are starting from whole vegetables, it may take about 10 minutes to prep. If you have pre-chopped vegetables available, you could probably have everything mixed in about 5 minutes if you work quickly.


Ingredients 1 pound ground chuck (or 1/2 lb ground beef and 1/2 lb ground pork)1 shallot or 1/2 small yellow onion, diced1-2 carrots, diced3 cloves garlic, minced2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped1/4 cup spinach, chopped (optional)1 slice of stale breadsalt and pepper, to taste1-2 eggs, lightly whisk…

I Let Myself Try a Peep

I don't like Peeps, but it had been years since I tried one, so I thought maybe I should try them again. My daughter won't be eating her Easter Peeps, so I picked one up and tried it.


I took a small bite.


It wasn't so good, but I gave it another chance.


Still gross. That last part never made it in my mouth.

Kindergarten Art: Drawing & Painting Happy Monsters

In one of our first explorations of paint, after reading The Love Monster to my kindergarten class, I asked them to create happy monsters on a large sheet of paper using crayon. They used paint to complete their piece for a quick introduction to wax resist.




Kindergarten Art: Modified Pochoir Printmaking

In March, I attended a workshop for educators, learning about pochoir printmaking. The class learned about traditional pochoir and practiced the technique using styrofoam sheets, stencils, paint, ink, and printmaking tools. It's pretty cool what you can do with basic materials, but the method would need some modification to work with a class of 20+ kindergarteners.

Below, is an example of what I made during the workshop. Using sharp tools, I quickly carved out the design and created a stencil for where I'd like color to appear under the print. Water-based ink and a brayer both led to a pretty smooth and even result, but not likely practical for the classroom on a budget.



It's a process-in-progress, but here is Modified Pochoir for Kindergarten:

Step #1: Lesson & Demo
After a quick project overview, pass out examples of etched designs for the students to both look at and feel. Point out the texture and the depth of the etching. Demonstrate how to etch a design using a d…

Still Planning My Garden Layout

With the weather slow to warm, I have time to think (probably overthink) more on my garden layout. In an ideal world, I'd have a lot of space to work with and marked off areas for certain plants that play nice together. Working with what I have means I need to be creative in my organization to maximize sun exposure, provide even watering, and reduce the complexity of different soil needs for certain plants.

The latest plan is a slight modification in bale layout, mainly to ensure certain plants get more sun and to provide more space for big tomato and cucumber plants. I'll stuff in some greens and flowers, and experiment with growing root veggies in the bales, starting with radishes. If the radishes aren't successful, I'll know early enough to start that area over by planting more peppers or cucumbers.


I really dislike waiting for planting season. Everything is delayed at the moment, even my potatoes, originally anticipated around April 2, now may arrive around the Apr…

Kindergarten Art: Rainbow Project

Recently, I covered the color wheel and related topics with my kindergarten art class. After weeks of painting and coloring projects, I decided to give them a break and offer up a cutting and gluing activity. They love using scissors and all are now proficient at cutting small shapes.

After a quick review of the colors in the rainbow and a project demo, I asked students to take one strip of each color and a pair of scissors. To save time, I pre-cut wide strips, four each from a sheet of construction paper. The students cut those strips in half lengthwise and then cut small squares from each strip.


Most students were very self-directed during this project. For those with questions or who got off track, problems were easy to resolve with either quick guidance from me, or a prompt to ask a friend for help.


When finished cutting, students were asked to put away their scissors, grab a bottle of glue and begin constructing the rainbow. I left a couple of examples around the room as a remind…

2015 Garden Plans

My garden expands slightly this year. We'll clean up our old raised bed (8x8'), add additional bales from the number used last year, and use our dirt beds on the side of the house for garlic and corn.


Last year, I had a bale garden that was approximately 4' x 12'. There's so much room on that side of the house and loads of sun to work with, so I've plotted out room for two rows of bales, each 2' x 16'.


Next year, I'm going to begin a two-year transition to traditional raised beds. The idea will be to pull out the old square bed, which is in a terrible location, and put in three beds where I now use bales, each about 5' x 15'. With that, I should be able to grow enough produce for our own summer and fall needs, plus offer plenty of leftovers to others. I'll likely have a better shot at good pollination for corn that way.

Those Darn Cats Ate My Plants

I prepared a complex, very thorough garden plan for this year, complete with planting, transplanting, and harvest charts. Like a dutiful gardener, I got seeds started indoors for those plants needing the longest time growing before transplant. They were looking quite healthy and I was pleased with a 75% germination rate (no grow light or heat mat). The plants were due to head down to the greenhouse now that the cellar has warmed up, but just before I could get them downstairs, I forgot to shut my office door and just like that, nearly all were destroyed by my cats.

Somehow, they are able to jump up on the tray without knocking it over, then they systematically ate the leaves and a few full plants. Several were found on the floor.

Rather than buy $20 in pods, I grabbed some cheap peat inserts at Fleet Farm. It's messier and may be harder to control moisture, but it's a good lesson for me to be more careful with seedlings!

My next batch of seeds starts inside around April 15-20,…

Breakfast, B&B Style

I long for our times at Woodland Trails and the delicious multi-course breakfasts from our gracious hosts. We're not big breakfast eaters and my husband would probably prefer just a cup of coffee, but sometimes I like to treat him to something special. This week, I prepared a yogurt and granola parfait with fresh fruit and toasted Irish soda bread.


Want to recreate this delicious breakfast treat? Here's how:
Sprinkle granola and currants on the bottom of a glass. The granola mix in the photo comes from the bulk bins at People's Food Co-op. Add 1/2 a single serve cup of your favorite yogurt. I used Wallaby Organic in lemon flavor. Add more granola and top with the rest of the yogurt. Sprinkle a little more granola on top and add sliced fresh berries. Serve with a slice of artisan-style toast and Irish butter. I like using Kerrygold Irish Butter (salted), spread on freshly baked or toasted soda bread.  Want a great recipe for soda bread? Quick and easy recipes can be found in…

Keeping it Fresh: Springtime Grocery Shopping

As winter fades away, the availability of fresh produce increases. This time of year, most is still from California or Florida, but berries become larger, fresher, and seem to last longer. I also notice prices begin to dip in March, though often climb again during the summer when more local, smaller farmers are supplying fresh produce. I don't mind paying a little more to keep small farms thriving.

Rochester has a winter farmer's market, though I've only visited once or twice. We're not big meat eaters and rarely buy preserves since I do those myself. Come summer, though, I try to get to market twice a month, even if just for fresh flowers and sweet corn.

We're members of People's Food Co-Op, spending approximately $250 a month on food and knick-knacks. My husband frequents Fareway, a small regional grocer that still offers a full-service butcher and car service. As a family, we probably spend at least $5000 a year on groceries, though I'm not counting addi…

Agate, the Nutty Kitty

Our most recent rescue, Agate the Cat, wishes to be outside desperately. He meows like a madman day and night and paws at the windows when I take the dog out for a potty break. With the weather warming up, I've taken Agate out on his kitty leash a few times, but now he wants even more to be outside.

This is a quieter moment of wishing to make the door disappear. You could also say he's helping with spring cleaning.


Feeling Crafty: Making a Country Doll

I was feeling crafty this month and it had been a while since I'd made anything interesting with my sewing machine. I've also got a small stash of fabric in colors and patterns I'd not likely use for clothes or quilts. With my sister-in-law likely visiting soon, I decided to make her a cute gift, something she'd enjoy as a decoration for her bed or in her office.

The doll came together quickly, just 90 minutes to cut and stitch. I spent another 30 minutes hand stitching seams after I stuffed her.

Clothes were more complicated. I wanted to stick with items I had on hand, so I used some vintage trims and country cotton prints and solids for the dress, bonnet, shoes, and jumper. Not having ribbon, I used green rickrack to tie the bonnet. My favorite part is the shoes, which were super easy to put together. Instead of buttons, I stitched little red knots, permanently attaching the shoes so they won't fall off.

Though I was happy to pass her along to my sister-in-law, w…